Overcoming a Child's Dental Fears
Kim Cook, Certified EFT Practitioner writes with a thorough account of using EFT to help her daughter overcome fears of orthodontic work - she includes a post-visit followup, tapping statements, and provides great notes and insights into the process.
By Kim Cook, Certified EFT Practitioner
A young girl (9 years old) was going to the dentist to have four teeth extracted so that orthodontic work could be done. She would have two extracted at the first appointment and then the following week she would go back to have the other two removed. I offered EFT to her since we have tapped together many times before and had great results. I asked her what she was thinking about in regards to getting her teeth pulled out. She was scared about the pain that she might feel when the dentist was pulling them out. She has never had teeth pulled out before however she has had teeth naturally fall out when they were ready. She didn’t have an exact reason why she was scared i.e., she hasn’t had siblings or friends go through it, but none the less she was scared about the pain. SUD’s level doesn’t seem to resonate with her so I asked her to show me with her arms how scared she was.
Not scared at all: arms extending in front of her body with hands and arms touching.
Very scared: arms stretched out on either side of her body.
From the distance her arms were apart I rated it in my own head a SUD’s of 7. I then asked her how she knew she was this scared about the pain and she said, “My stomach is really turning.” I asked, “How bad is it?” She rated it a 9 with her arms. We began tapping.
Even though I am scared of the pain I might feel I am a great kid.
Even though my stomach is really turning I am a great kid.
Even though I am really scared to do this I am a great kid.
EB: scared of the pain
SE: my stomach is turning
UE: really scared to do this
UN: scared of the pain I will feel
CH: why do I have to do this?
KB: my stomach is turning
UA: I am really scared that there will be a lot of pain
TH: this will hurt me
We took a deep breath and had a drink of water.
I had her again rate how scared she was that she might feel pain. Her SUD’s (using her arms) went down to approximately 2. SUD’s for stomach turning went down to a 3.
Slight Reframe in the Set-Up
Even though I am still scared that I might feel pain since I haven’t ever done this before maybe I’ll be ok.
Even though I am still scared to get my teeth pulled and my stomach is still turning maybe I will be okay.
Even though I am still a little scared because I don’t know what to expect maybe I will get through this okay, I am a strong kid.
EB: still scared
SE: stomach still turning
UE: maybe I will be okay
UN: maybe this will not be so bad
CH: I still feel a little scared
KB: stomach still turning a little bit
UA: don’t want to be in pain
TH: little scared
SUD’s Level down to a 1 on both scared and stomach turning.
EB: maybe I will get through this
SE: I am a strong kid
UE: I am going to be okay
UN: I can do this
CH: I will get through this because I am strong
KB: I feel strong
UA: I am strong
TH: I will get through this okay because I am me…
SUD’s Level now 0 for both.
She said, “Well I am not really scared of the pain, it’s the blood in my mouth that I don’t want to taste; that would be gross.” (New aspect had surfaced)
SUD’s Level 5 on this statement. I ask her, “Do you feel this anywhere in your body?” She says, “My mouth is really dry.” SUD’s level for mouth: 6
Even though I don’t want to taste blood in my mouth because that is gross I am a good kid.
Even though I may taste blood and I don’t want to, I think I am going to be okay.
Even though right now my mouth is dry thinking about the blood I am a good kid.
EB: don’t want to taste blood
SE: it’s gross tasting
UE: don’t like the taste of blood in my mouth
UN: my mouth is dry
CH: blood is so gross tasting
KB: thinking about it makes my mouth dry
UA: the taste of blood is gross to me
She had a big yawn. Nice release.
TH: blood in my mouth….gross
Reframe: (she was getting bored with this tapping round)
EB: blood in my mouth is gross
SE: I’ve tasted it before when I lost my tooth when I was younger
UE: It’s really not that big a deal
UN: I don’t like it, but I have had teeth fall out and the blood was no big deal
CH: it probably won’t be a big deal this time either
KB: it’s just a little blood and I can just spit it out
UA: this is no big deal to me
TH: I can do this
She looked completely bored with the tapping. I asked, “How do you feel now about tasting blood in your mouth?” Her response was, “I don’t know. I don’t want to taste it because it tastes gross, but I know that I can just spit it out in that little cup.” (Cognitive shift) Her mouth was no longer as dry as it was. I asked her to close her eyes and picture herself sitting in the dentist’s chair and she had just had the first tooth pulled. She told me that she could see herself spitting out the blood into the cup and she didn’t like that taste of it, but it didn’t bother her. However (new aspect) she could smell the dental office and she hates that smell.
SUD’s level for the smell of the dental office was a 4; she didn’t seem to have any sensations in her body in relation to this.
Even though I hate the smell of the dentist’s office I am a good kid.
Even though I can smell that smell as soon as I walk in and I don’t like it I am a good kid.
Even though I hate that smell I am going to be okay.
EB: I hate that smell
SE: what is that smell
UE: the smell of the dentist’s office makes me not want to go in there
UN: that smell
CH: I hate it
CB: smells so bad to me
UA: I don’t like that smell when I am in there
TH: I wish it wasn’t there
I was losing her again with boredom.
EB: I hate that smell
SE: but it is just a smell
UA: it’s not that big a deal
UN: I smell things I don’t like all the time
CB: it’s just another smell
UA: no big deal
TH: I can deal with it
SUD’s level on smell down from a 4 to a 0.
At this point I asked her if she had any other things about her dental appointment that she wanted to work on. “No” she said, “I just want to go play for a few minutes before we have to leave.”
The appointment went very well. During the entire appointment, while she was being worked on, I just simply tapped on all of her fingertip points so that if she was going through anything hopefully we were taking care of it right there in the moment. She had two teeth extracted and although there was some blood the dentist actually said that there wasn’t as much as he expected. We came home that evening and her mouth had been packed with gauze to absorb anymore blood. The dentist called a couple hours later to check in with us. He asked how many times I had to change the gauze and I said, “None, she took the gauze out of her mouth on the drive home and there has been no bleeding except for what was on the original gauze.” The dentist seemed very surprised at this and told her that, “She was doing very well.” She ate dinner that night and went to school the next day as though she hadn’t even gone through the procedure. For the next couple of days I continued to check in with her regarding pain, blood or any other discomfort. The only thing that bothered her was when food got into the holes of her gums, but other than that she said that she was fine.
One Week Later
The night before her appointment I asked if there was anything that she wanted to tap on. Her answer was, “No, it wasn’t really that bad last week. I know I will be okay tomorrow.” What a great thing to hear, nice cognitive shift. The next day in the car ride to the dentist (45 minutes) she became very quiet, which isn’t typical, so I asked her if she was okay. She said she was fine but I could hear in her voice it wasn’t exactly true. A few minutes passed and I decided to turn my rear view mirror down to face her. I could see her tapping away. I did not interrupt her because I knew she was giving herself a fabulous gift by helping herself through whatever emotions, feelings or thoughts she was facing. She tapped for about 7 minutes. She had been so focused on tapping that she never even saw me in the mirror until after she was done. I asked her if she felt comfortable telling me what she had just tapped on. I was surprised to hear what it was. She said that the only thing that had bothered her last week at the dentist was that her jaw had hurt quite-a-bit because she had to keep her mouth open for so long. She said that her jaw hurt toward the end of the appointment and it still had bothered her some the next day. She blamed that not only on her mouth having to stay open but also on the dentists “fat fingers”. I had to chuckle at this, but she said she was actually tapping on “his fat fingers in my mouth.”
Her second appointment went just as well as the first and although there didn’t seem to be any other aspects I continued to tap on her fingertip points during the entire appointment. The appointment was quicker than the first, bleeding was minimal during and after, she experienced no pain just slight tugging during the extractions and the best thing for her was that her jaw didn’t hurt nearly as much as it had the week before. She explained her jaw as being “More tired than painful” this time. After we returned home I offered her EFT for her “tired jaw” but she said that she would tap for herself if she thought that she needed it. She is a very independent 9 year old and since she had done such a great job in the car I decided to completely trust her and allow her to tap if or when she needed to. I watched her at dinner time for any signs of distress, but saw none. As she climbed into bed that evening I asked her how she was doing and she said, “I feel good and my jaw isn’t even tired.” I gave her great praise for helping herself with this wonderful tool that she has learned. As far as I am concerned EFT completely transformed this potentially unpleasant experience into a completely tolerable situation. And the best part for me as a parent is in knowing that my daughter now has the ability to help herself in any situation that comes her way. And she has pride in knowing that she is able to help herself. Even though I have used EFT for years it amazes me each time I see the results. This child is 9 years old and now she has a tool that she can use for life. What an incredible gift.
Childs’ Dental Fears
- How rapport was established at the begging of the session, and what you did to make the client comfortable in the clinical setting. I didn’t have this child in my office. We were actually sitting on her bed which made her feel more comfortable and at ease. I made good eye contact with her and after she spoke I always repeated what she said to make sure I had it right and that I was using her words in the EFT rounds.
- How did you explain to the client what to expect? Client already has used EFT many times in the past for falls, fear of bees, friend issues etc. She likes using EFT, but only on her terms, so I never push her into tapping. I usually ask if I can help and then I allow her to come to me when and if she is ready.
- Was there a discussion of confidentiality, and/or signing of Informed Consent? This client knows that anything that we talk about is strictly between her and me. I do not talk to anyone about our sessions unless she has brought it up and given me permission. She feels very comfortable in confiding in me about her issues and concerns.
- How did you demonstrate presence with the client? I listen very well and always try to repeat back to my client what I have heard. I want to make sure that I use their words and that I am hearing and interpreting correctly exactly what they have said. I also use good eye contact when appropriate. (Some clients are uncomfortable with strong eye contact.) I usually work with this client in a very comfortable, casual setting such as, outside on the grass, sitting on her bed or the couch. This allows her and I to be more relaxed and playful with EFT, instead of official (which would completely block her from sharing).
- If a new technique was introduced, did you explain what would happen? We usually tap only on the shortcut points; however she does know the entire EFT long version. I did get her permission to tap on her fingertip points while she was having her dental procedure done. I told her that if at any time she wanted me to stop tapping she could just gently pull her hand away (she never did).
- Was there a core issue underneath the presenting issue, and, if so, how was that discovered and handled? I asked her in the very beginning of the session why she felt she had the fear. We determined that no one she knew had experienced this before, so she wasn’t hooked into their trauma or belief. We couldn’t establish any past core issues.
Closure: I let her know that anytime she had something come up that she wanted to tap on I was there for her. I also watched her closely for any signs of distress and discomfort. Since she doesn’t always come to me I made sure that I checked in with her often to see if there were any other aspects, new fears etc...that needed to be worked with.
EFT Certified Practitioner Practitioner
Kim specializes in Pain Control and Stress Management. She has worked successfully with clients on a variety of issues such as: anxiety, symptoms from cancer treatment, fear of needles, fear of flying, discomfort from chronic illness, back pain, headaches, stuttering, and many other issues. She has been using EFT on herself and clients for the past 7 years. As well as being an EFT practitioner, Kim is also and Advanced Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner. When appropriate Kim uses both modalities to help her clients through whatever they are facing.